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UPA allies, Opposition want Lokayukta provision deleted

Last updated on: March 23, 2012 18:10 IST

The contentious provision related to Lokayuktas in the Lokpal Bill may change as key United Progressive Alliance constituents joined the Opposition in demanding its deletion.

At a meeting of leaders of over 20 parties convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it was agreed that the legislation could be taken up during the second half of the Budget Session after evolving a consensus during the three-week intersession break beginning April.

Leader of the Opposition and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley said the consensus among the parties, including some UPA constituents, was that the federal structure cannot be disturbed and the Lokayukta provision must be deleted.

Sharing this view, Communist Party of India - Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said the setting up of Lokayuktas in states should be delinked from the Lokpal.

Interestingly, Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, leader of the Trinamool Congress, which is strongly opposed to the Lokayukta clause, said the parties were united in demanding the deletion of the provision.

Representatives of Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, Nationalist Congress Party and National Conference, which are part of the government, also opposed the Lokayukta

In the face of strong opposition from within, the government may consider deleting the provision related to the anti-corruption body in states.

But sources said differences persisted on the demand to broadbase the appointment process of Lokpal, which the Opposition feels is loaded in favour of the government, and the government control over CBI.

The Opposition wants an independent investigation agency under Lokpal or CBI not reporting to government on corruption cases being investigated by it.

The meeting was called to evolve a consensus to break the logjam over the bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha and got stalled in the Rajya Sabha.

Jaitley and Yechury also said the government should not have the sole say in the appointment and removal of Lokpal. They demanded more representation for the Opposition and independent institutions.

They also said that the investigating agency for Lokpal should be free of government control.

"There was a demand that the cases of corruption being probed by the CBI should be under the superintendence and control of Lokpal," Yechury said.

A suggestion was made to refer the bill to a select committee of Rajya Sabha to discuss the amendments but it was understood to have been shot down because of the view that it would be a time-consuming process.

On the existing provision to bring all NGOs under the ambit of Lokpal, Jaitley said that while foreign-funded NGOs can be under its scanner, private NGOs and institutions like
schools and hospitals run by NGOs can be kept out. Yechury wanted inclusion of corporate houses in the bill.

"The government, along with major political parties, will come out with a consensus. The government is committed to bringing the Bill in this session. The actual wording of the
Lokpal Bill will be worked out during the intervening period the Budget Session," Yechury said.

Roy said that the majority of political parties asked for the deletion of Lokayukta because they felt that this bill otherwise "affects the federal character of the Constitution and the autonomy of the state".

DMK leader T Siva said laws enacted by Parliament should not undermine the rights of states. "The provision of Lokayukta should be removed from the existing Lokpal Bill. We
are opposing it as it will harm the federal structure".

National Conference, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Lok Janshakti Party opposed bringing the prime minister under the purview of the Lokpal.

AIADMK leader V Maitreyan said there was "near unanimity" among all parties on delinking Lokayukta from Lokpal Bill.

Minister of State for Prime Minister's Office V Narayanasamy expressed confidence that the government was hopeful of passing the bill in this session itself.

"We have come to a stage where views of various political parties have been heard, now the government will take a decision on how to pass this Bill with the consensus of all political parties," Minister of State for PMO V Narayanasamy said.

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